Where are we now
Our unexpected travel across the Simpson Desert started off with the first dune – Little Red where we all let our tyres down slightly – no problems. Then the lower portion of the Big Red Dune Nappanerica – let our tyres down more – problems- let our tyres down more – problems – problems – eventually let ours down to 25 psi. The rest of the trucks in the group were having the same problems and needed to use max tracks or have a tow to get over the dune even after lowering their tyre pressure, we were ok once we had the correct tyre pressure. Then it was on to Big Red proper and we’re proud to say Walkabout III reached the summit, coming from the west. Such an amazing view but we all agreed it just didn’t seem as high as the many photos we’ve seen indicate. After this we traveled over dune after dune none causing any significant problems. Great views of the track ahead going for kilometre after kilometre, we are so glad to have joined this group of 3 Canter trucks and 2 Prado’s. A mixture of ages, backgrounds and length of time knowing each other. Only one of the group has been here before but the others are all experienced four wheel drivers.
The only frustration for me on the first day was the app I use to track our trip wasn’t tracking and would keep turning off so annoying I’ve resorted to just leaving a dot trail and have to live with the fact that I can no longer record our full trip. So if you are reading this and use Pocket Earth any suggestions would be appreciated.
We had a good first night in the desert round a blazing campfire and enjoyed a cool night with a gorgeous rising full moon. In the morning I spotted a very handsome small dingo which was a great start to the day.
The second day was more ups and downs with a new highlight being crossing a number of salt lakes, all hard and dry so no problems. Brought back memories of when we were at Wendover in Utah in the pouring rain, such a contrast. We even saw large camel prints on the lakes but not a camel in sight. After stopping at Poeppel’s Corner, the junction of Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia the track changed, the red sand faded to a dusty light brown and rather than lines of dunes to cross there was a mosaic of humpy dunes making for a much rougher ride and lots of gear changing for the drivers. None of this trip is smooth but just prior to stopping on our second day it was definitely rougher and also hot as we are heading straight into the western sun.
Day 3 went well we had a few stops firstly to check out Approdinna Attora Knoll which is 2 knolls formed by a build up of gypsum, a great Aboriginal story went with this which I’m sure sure you can research if interested. Then we had a few interesting intersections with some signs reminding us of the history of the desert and the explorers who had passed this way. At this overnight stop we aren’t by a large sandy dune so I missed going for a peaceful walk and checking out the animal and insect footprints. We did however have a fantastic sunset with the temperature dropping and the sun casting a gorgeous glow.
There are various scents around and one strong one that no one can identity is not particularly pleasant but we figure it must come from a plant nearby. There is a far greater variety of vegetation than I anticipated, plenty of grasses and small shrubs and even some larger trees although nothing over 3 meters. We were fortunate this morning to see another dingo in camp, today’s visitor was very inquisitive unfortunately very skinny so was probably hungry but he kept leading the way along the track until we reached our first salt lake when he headed away following his own agenda. Just a few birds around, tiny finches and birds of prey which hopefully I’ve managed to photograph.
Travel is very slow in the desert for those of you who have never been out here you may be surprised to know our average speed is about 14km per hour and to date we haven’t exceeded 100km in a day. We start our day at about 8.30 and pull up about 4pm. Of course the drivers need to have regular breaks (a good excuse to stop for both morning and afternoon tea), it is hard work all this gear changing and managing the twists and turns of the track and to avoid the trees and shrubs, also the vehicles themselves need to cool to prevent the tyres from overheating as well as the gearbox, suspension etc. Unfortunately some tracks are narrow so Walkabout III is having a bit of a beating on the paintwork as we twist and turn our way through scratchy trees and bushes.
Day 4 we started our day by heading south on a return route to see the Lone Gum, going in the direction of the dunes rather than over them made for a very different drive and was very corrugated. The fact that there is a gum tree (well actually it’s a eucalyptus coolabah tree) here no-one really know how come but it is protected. Funny that we drove about 22km to see a tree that we’ve all seen many times before. For all of day 4 we didn’t see any other travellers so can only guess that they are sticking to the French Line. We did continue to see plenty of tracks including more camel ones and also plenty of poo spotting. We turned on to the Rig Road (off the WAA Line) which was enhanced with a clay top to allow the road trains to come through with the gear for putting down bores. Much of the clay has worn away but this is still a good track. We continue to have fly free days and very few insects at night. After enjoying a glass or two of rum Geoff decided this was the place to put out his little marsupial cage, a harmless device that anything caught can be released. The intent was that we all get a chance to see what he’d caught however in the morning the cage was gone oops Geoff didn’t secure it to anything.
We’ve had good fires each night, the 2 Canters that have boxes rather than a home on the back also have room to stow a few thicker logs which is handy. The temperature has been really nice clear days 12 to 31 degrees and only 16% humidity. Rob & I keep mentioning to each other how fortunate we are to have been able to join this group and thank our friends who put our names forward when they had the misfortune to cancel out.
Day 5 we rejoin the French Track and immediately see a group of campers and then another group before we stop for the night at Purni Bore, treat of treats there is toilet & shower oh but this brings the flies thankfully though very few. Not only do we see dingoes here but also brolgas, finches, plovers, moorhens, grebes and of course birds of prey. We set up camp prior to lunch so a chance for some to enjoy an afternoon snooze, for me it was a good chance to catch up on this blog and my photos as well as sort out my pantry of food. Late afternoon we went for a walk round the small lake, this is filled from the bore tap, greatly reduced as initially it had too greater flow which while creating a large lake for wildlife it affected the Dalhousie Springs. We saw more bird life and rabbits but still no elusive camel